National Media Coverage and “Politicized Lawyering” in the NSU Court Case, Germany

Monday, 11 July 2016: 14:30
Location: Hörsaal 31 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Helena FLAM, University of Leipzig, Germany
Between 2001 and 2007 a three-person group calling itself National Socialist Underground was killing small businessmen across Germany. With one exception, these were German citizens. Most had a Turkish migrant background. Although the killings spread over a number of years, and the perpetrators also robbed banks and exploded bombs in ethnic neighborhoods, injuring many people, neither the police nor the intelligence forces took these criminal acts seriously. Along with the press, most dismissed them as "Döner-murders" and looked for perpetrators in the “migrant criminal milieus”. After the same group allegedly killed a policewoman and attempted to kill her colleague in 2011, two male members of the group allegedly killed themselves while the third one – a woman – reported herself to the police. In 2013 a court case was opened in which she and some others are charged with accessory to murder. In the court case about 60 lawyers represent the victims’ widows and children. In my presentation, I will depict the actions of these lawyers as well as the reporting by the press. To signal what is to come, the reactions are polarized: while one national newspaper has predominantly worried about how this court case affects the legitimacy of the German state, another has mostly worried about the migrants, giving the surviving family members voice and face. Similarly for the victims’ lawyers: while some very openly criticize the German state for tolerating racist institutional discrimination in the police and intelligence forces, calling for decisive reforms, others seem invisible and "neutral". Time permitting, I will also report on the conclusions reached by the commissions of inquiry set up by some regional governments to clarify the facts of the case.